Ahmedabad: The celebrations haven’t begun, but the relaxed look on coach Greg Chappell and the players’ faces suggested it was only a matter of time before Virender Sehwag won his ‘debut’ Test as captain.
With nothing to worry, Rahul Dravid went back to Bangalore in the evening after spending a few hours with teammates in the dressing room.
The Lankans survived to fight another day at nearby Motera on Wednesday. It wasn’t very convincing though, and there were moments when it seemed the match would end on the penultimate day. Thanks to a 105-run fifth-wicket stand between Mahela Jayawardene and Tillekeratne Dilshan, the inevitable was delayed.
The visitors, set a target of 509, still trail by 274 runs. “It’ll be very difficult to save this Test. We have only four wickets in hand' One established batsman remains'” Dilshan summed up the mood in their camp at the close.
The Indians will move to No. 2 in the ICC rankings once the series is won 2-0 on Thursday.
The Indian spinning duo carried on their good work in the second innings, too. After adding 69 runs in an unbroken stand for the last wicket, before the declaration came through, they reduced the Lankans to 96 for four before Jayawardene and Dilshan got together.
Kumble and Harbhajan were the most threatening among the bowlers ' the off-spinner opening the attack and even starting with the second new ball ' with their disciplined and penetrative bowling.
They used the conditions superbly always keeping the batsmen guessing and making them work hard for their runs.
‘Centurion’ Kumble is always the danger man when he has a wicket or two under his belt. His probing line and rhythm was difficult to get away as he got the ball to jump from the footmarks.
Jayawardene’s battle with Kumble was interesting. As the leg-spinner came round the wicket to utilise the spots outside the leg stump, the Lankan constantly offered his pads to neutralise it.
A frustrated Kumble was then forced to change his line.
Kumble’s three wickets made him the highest wicket-taker against Sri Lanka surpassing Wasim Akram’s 63.
Harbhajan was also impressive but he seemed to have tired out towards the end. The off-spinner’s variations and tantalising flight never made it easy for the batsmen. With five men always there in close-catching position, it was very difficult for the batsmen to breathe easy.
A few close calls were missed, but in general, the fielding was smart.
Not just the spinners, the pacers too played their part. Ajit Agarkar’s fitness doubts were put to rest when he used the old ball to reverse swing and break the threatening fifth wicket stand. Jayawardene drove a shade early and the return catch was well accepted.
Irfan Pathan was as usual enterprising. With surgical precision he used the new ball and his pace was always threatening.
One of the problems for Lankans on this tour has been the lack of form of their batsmen.
Already handicapped by the absence of Sanath Jayasuriya, the failure of the top-order to be among runs has had a demoralising effect of the team.
Upul Tharanga did manage some runs but the failure of Kumar Sangakkara has made a big impact. Jayawardene’s (57 off 106 balls, 7x4) approach was uncomplicated and delightful. He used his feet well and the assurance of his temperament rubbed off on his partner.
Dilshan (65 off 123 balls 5x4), who survived a close bat-pad chance off Kumble, has been among runs in this Test and it would have helped if only some other had showed the same application and temperament.
“The wicket was very difficult to bat'
“The fact that we are not used to playing with the SG balls made our task difficult. But the way we fell in the 50s and 60s was bad. We should look to make more of the starts. We made too many mistakes and there is no real reason,” Dilshan explained.
The failure to learn from their mistakes has been the reason for their debacle.